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New hope for children with special needs

18 Nov 2011

Children with special educational needs are making remarkable progress in maths and english as well as their behaviour and relationships with other people, thanks to a new way of supporting them at school.

The Government funded pilot at 450 schools was praised following an independent evaluation by a team led by Professor Neil Humphrey and Dr Garry Squires from The University of Manchester.

Professor Humphrey, who is based in the University’s School of Education said: “Our various analyses suggest that Achievement for All has been extremely successful in improving academic and other outcomes for children with special educational needs.

“These are among the most vulnerable children in the education system, and as such the findings are very encouraging indeed.

“AfA is not about revolution, but rather the evolution of systems, processes and practices designed to support pupils with special needs in school.

“It provides a clear framework for action but also allows schools flexibility so that they can tailor the suggested strategies and approaches to their own needs and circumstances".

According to the team, the scheme’s strengths included using data to track pupils' progress, setting curriculum targets and intervening to ensure children make progress in their learning.

They applauded the use of regular 'structured conversations' with parents, which enable an open, ongoing dialogue about their child's learning.

Other strategies relating to attendance, behaviour, bullying, relationships with teachers and peers, and after-school clubs were also praised.

The pilot programme received over £30 million funding over two years and the Manchester team were commissioned by the Department for Education to evaluate its effectiveness.

They tracked a cohort of children in each of the participating schools, and compared their progress to children in similar schools not implementing the scheme, in addition to national datasets held by the Government.

The team also conducted case studies in 20 schools, interviewing staff, pupils and parents, and observing lessons.